RSS

Monthly Archives: October 2011

Budget or Die

Budget or Die

Seriously, learn to budget or your ministry is toast

It’s that time of the year when many of us in ministry take a break from the things we care about and turn our attention to submitting a budget for the upcoming year. My friend Collie recently published a post (http://colliecoburnjr.com/defeating-the-budget-monster) that got me thinking through how over-my-head I felt in my first few years of ministry as I tried to create a system and process for budgeting. Now, as my friends and staff are well aware, budgeting season is one of my favorite parts of the year.  Crazy, right?

(If you read that as though you only have to budget once and then you’re good-to-go… leave me a comment in the section below and we’ll have a conversation this week where I break the news to you that budgeting is a year-round and life-long process)

The game-changer for me was two-fold – First, I developed a way to project what a program or event was going to cost without feeling like I was simply guessing and, second, I learned to use the budgeting process as a chance to cast and realign vision for our ministry.

Developing Initial Projections

I’ve found it helpful, in developing ministry budgets, to figure out a formula for an initial cost projection for a program or event. Having a way to initially project what an event or program is going to cost helped me feel as though I wasn’t simply guessing at the cost of ministry.

As a starting point in my first 2 years of ministry, I used these two quick formulas for events for 3 yr olds thru 5th graders (nursery, parenting and middle school events need different numbers… but I’ll assume that the bulk of kids’ ministers out there budget primarily for the 3’s-5th grade demographic)…

In our context, ongoing events and regular programs cost about $1 per child per ministry hour.
Large events and events that only happen once or twice a year cost about $2 per child per ministry hour.

Starting there would give me a base for my budget… it’s then up to me to go through my list of needs and wants to see if I can actually pull it off.

I’ll quickly put those numbers to the test with 2 examples:

Let’s say you have 70 kids in an ongoing program like Sunday School. And, as it once was in my case, let’s now assume that kids in your program will be with you on a Sunday for an hour and a half. That’s $1 x 70 kids x 1.5 hours… or, $105 per Sunday, giving you an annual budget of $5460 for Sunday School.

A large event, like a Halloween Festival or a VBS, will use the other formula. For the sake of easy math, let’s say you run a VBS or Day Camp for 100 kids and that the program lasts from 9am-1pm (4 hours). That’s $2 x 100 x 4 for a total of $800 per day, giving you a budget of $4,000 for a 5 day program.

Having a formula you can work from, even if it’s different than mine, gives you a way to go back to your pastor or your board to explain why a one-time event like VBS will cost nearly as much as a year of Sunday School. And, as your numbers grow, you have something to point back to to make a case for the need for an increased budget line.

Budgeting as an outflow of Vision

When I came on staff at our church, children’s ministry was getting 0.8% of the church budget.  That’s to say, for every $1 that was donated to the church, less than a penny was going to the programs and ministries dedicated to children under the age of 12.  That was a staggering number.

Now, I’ll be honest, there was a tectonic shift that occurred at our church that began to address that figure – we hired a senior pastor who had an appreciation for where the church had been and a vision for where the church needed to go.  He allowed us to begin looking at our budget numbers as expressions of what we thought mattered most.  In the first few years, a large event that our church hosted every year was canceled and I took that money and invested it in books and resources that we could hand to parents – believing that a more lasting impact would happen in the life of a family if parents were equipped to have spiritual conversations with their kids… rather than a family simply attending one more large event our church was hosting.

A few weeks ago, The Orange Tour came to our church and Reggie Joiner sat down with our Senior Pastor to chat about life, ministry and the things that matter most.  It’s a 15 minute conversation, but has some stand out moments.

If you begin watching at about 8 minutes, you’ll hear a throw away line just before the 9 minute mark about the year that our children’s ministry budget doubled.  That was the year that our Senior Pastor told the church that children’s ministry mattered.  We used our budget as an expression of the vision of the church.  The numbers were more than numbers – they were a physical manifestation of what we knew to be true – ministry to kids matters and an excellent ministry is going to cost more money than what we had been spending.

—-

You need to know how to budget.

Whether you’re in ministry or not, money doesn’t just happen – so you need to spend with an end in mind.  As you look over your budget, household or ministry, what does it say about the things you value?  Is there a way that you’re coming up with numbers, or are they simply hopeful shots in the dark?  Can your spouse or your senior pastor articulate why you spend what you spend on the things you spend it on?

Budgeting season doesn’t have to be stressful – but it does have to matter.

 
2 Comments

Posted by on October 17, 2011 in Kidmin

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

The Lingering Pain of Loss

The Lingering Pain of Loss

Ministering in the midst of brokenness

I place a high value on authenticity and transparency in leadership.  With that in mind, I’m going to lay some stuff out there that some in ministry circles might cringe at.  I apologize in advance.

Church leaders are just like you.  Let that sink in for a minute.  Just. Like. You.

We have struggles and hurts and brokenness.  When you see us on Sunday, we aren’t serving the church because we have it all together – we’re serving because we’ve submitted our broken and imperfect lives to something bigger than ourselves and the call on our lives is something that exists in spite of, in the midst of, and even through our imperfections.

—-

“One of our friends needs to have a baby…”

I was sitting in a car on the way to lunch this week when one of my friends dropped a seemingly harmless thought into conversation.  As I sunk deeply into my seat, he continued to talk and think out loud about how much fun it is to go through the holidays with pregnancy stories and how our circle of friends needs someone who will bring up the stories of helplessness that are associated with trying to care for a newborn.

It was just a few months ago when we were that family.  Just before our nation’s birthday, we had news to share of another coming birthday – my wife and I found out that we were expecting another child.  We were ready to welcome a new baby into the world.  A baby that might might grow to love the color green or have a passion for cartwheels or desire to one day be an amazing stay-at-home mom like the one that she was going to grow up with.  Then, on a Sunday morning, when I was getting ready to take a bunch of kids on a week-long adventure to summer camp, my wife came to me crying.  She was bleeding and frightened and scared that she may have lost our baby – and I had to keep our Sunday programs running.

Life happens.  Even on Sundays.

We came out of that scare with hope that the baby was fine.  Our doctors and nurses seemed to think that the episode was just a hiccup in the pregnancy and that we’d still deliver just fine.  And yet, a few months later, we received the news that we had prayed against – our baby was gone.  We weren’t going to have a chance to meet her on this side of Heaven.

We were crushed.

“If you could ask God one question, what would it be?”

We were sitting in our living room a few days ago when my son began pondering this question.  He decided that he’d ask if he was going to get to see Baby Tiny in Heaven.

Months have passed and yet time is moving slowly for my family.  Carter still draws pictures of the baby he’ll never meet.  Christine stands in the kitchen and stares off into the distance and holds her now empty tummy.  Kate continues to grow and continues to dance in slow motion.  And then there’s me.  I keep standing in front of crowds of people on Sunday mornings and at conferences to tell them that parenting is hard and marriage is hard – so we shouldn’t do them alone… we need to be part of a family that’s bigger than the walls of our home and a church that’s bigger than the walls of the sanctuary.  I get to tell kids that God is with them in hard times and that he writes a better story than we could ever imagine.

Yet, for the last few weeks, I’ve avoided checking in on our nursery team on Sundays.  I can’t even walk into the room.  I’m broken.

—-

The funny thing about loss is that it lingers.  Knee surgeries give you a limp – people can see the scars and have visual reminders of your story.  Losing a baby is different – there’s now a nothingness that sits at the dinner table with us, is in the corner of our family pictures and continues to draw hits to a video we posted on youtube to announce the news of our pregnancy.

If I didn’t tell our story, we’d be the only ones who knew that nothingness even existed.  And, here’s the thing, we’re not alone in dealing with our loss.  Because we’ve been transparent and we’ve told our story, we have a community that understands.

And so, on days like today, our story continues moving forward.  We eat goldfish crackers, build LEGO creations, shop for eyeliner and fill the refrigerator with new groceries.  Life, at times, is hard – that’s why we don’t do it alone.

Thanks for being a part of our story.

for other posts related to our journey though miscarriage, check out

http://westcoastcm.wordpress.com/2011/08/19/losing-baby-tiny/

http://westcoastcm.wordpress.com/2011/08/23/saying-goodbye-to-baby-tiny/

 

 
6 Comments

Posted by on October 15, 2011 in Thoughts

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Reaching a New Generation of Families

Reaching a New Generation of Families

Throw Away Your Cookie Cutter “Family Ministry” Strategy

This last week, I had the privilege of spending time with Amy Dolan, children’s ministry consultant and founder of Lemon-Lime kids.  Amy led a session at the conference I attended and facilitated a conversation about what family ministry will look like in 2011 and beyond.  I’ll lead with some new facts and ideas that Amy planted in my head and what I think we, as ministry practitioners, can do to revamp and re-imagine what family ministry looks like for a new generation of families.

What is a family?

In order to begin reaching families in your community with the Gospel, the first thing you need to throw out is your definition of family.  “Why?” you may ask… well, to begin with, the families you minister to are living in a world where the definition of family has changed.  Don’t believe me?  Let’s let Diane Sawyer and her team do the talking:

In my own home – we’re faced with redefining what a family is.  I have a sister who has been with the same boyfriend for over a decade.  We like him a lot.  At Christmastime, our family (my wife, 2 kids and I) buys them one Christmas gift in the same way that we send our sets of parents one gift each.  Our kids even call him Uncle Jordan.  He and my sister aren’t married, they don’t have kids, and yet – we, in all practical purposes, call them a family.

There almost seems to be a generational divide over who is and who isn’t comfortable with the loosening of the term “family” – especially in the world of Church.  Don’t believe me?  Ask an elder or board member at your church to write the definition of “family” and then ask a teacher or administrator in your local public school district to define what a family is – they’ll probably sound a little different.  And, as you reach out into your community, you need to know that the definition of family is changing – whether the church is ready for it or not.

Throw away your cookie cutters!

These are my words, not Amy’s.  However, I think she’d be in full support of them.  Over the last decade, as the church has re-struggled to engage families by tapping someone on staff to “Run” family ministries, the Church has gotten great at running “family” events.  Many churches, if you asked them what their family ministry strategy was, would point to a potluck they host or a movie night they invite families to.  Think about the way that we’ve often pitched these events…

To kids, we encourage them to bring their parents to events – but… what about kids who come to church with their grandparents?  Or what about the ones who have neighbors driving them to church?  And how about the kids in your church who are in foster care or have been removed from their parents’ home by local authorities?  Have you ever considered how those kids feel when you get a room full of their peers excited about inviting their parents to an event?

To grown ups, we announce that family events are upcoming and tell parents to bring their kids – but… do we consider the couples in the congregation who are struggling after a miscarriage and ache to be considered a “family” by those around them?  Have we thought about the message that we send to singles in our churches who already feel as though the church tells them that their life isn’t complete without a spouse… and now there’s another hurdle they’re going to have to jump over to be considered a “family” by their pastor?

I think we can do better and that we need to do better if the church is going to run effective family ministry in the changing world around us.

Practical next steps

I want to suggest a handful of next steps for those of us in the church who are looking to better serve families and the communities around us.  However, I want us to also sit and consider some of what we just read and heard.  If the definition of “family” is more fluid in the year 2011 than it’s been over the last few decades, then what does that mean for those of us who have been tasked by our churches to facilitate “family” ministries?  Where are some places in our churches that we can make room for singles and couples without children so that they know that they are a part of our church family and their voices are valuable in the conversation?

I’m going to hold off on practical application until my next post.  I feel like throwing out answers this quickly doesn’t allow the space we need to consider the changes on the horizon for Family Ministry in the Church.

 
7 Comments

Posted by on October 13, 2011 in Kidmin, Orange, Thoughts

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Meeting Families Where They Are

 

Meeting Families Where They Are

Family Ministry Connect Group Reflections

I had the privilege this last weekend to have spent some time in Chicago at Group’s Kidmin Conference.  While there, I led something called a “Connect Group” – a multi-day conversation and gathering of ministry practitioners who spend time connecting over a common subject.  The group I facilitated was focusing on Family Ministry – specifically answering the question, how does the church best partner with parents and families in order to pass the faith on to the next generation in relevant and lasting ways?

While spending time together, I noticed a common theme.  Those of us around the table were talking about ministry ideas that we’ve tried in order to reach and equip families – both the ideas that have worked and the ones that have failed – and the ideas that worked almost sounded like a broken record… churches are succeeding when they meet families where they’re at, rather than telling them what would be best for them.

Making the things you’re already doing count

Most of us know the story and the power of the movement behind an organization called TOMS shoes.  Their founder, Blake Mycoskie, decided to leverage an action people were already doing – buying shoes – and use that buying power to help children in need obtain a higher standard of living.  It’s a great example of meeting people where they are and making it count.  I tell high schoolers and young adults all the time – if you want to do the MOST good, your $60 can help out an organization like Compassion tremendously.  However, if you’re already going to drop that kind of money (or more) on a pair of shoes, then why not buy a pair from an organization that will pass on a pair to a child who has never owned shoes?

I say that to say this – from the conversations around our circles, it sounds as though family ministry is most effective when churches find things that families are already celebrating or doing (Halloween Parties, Christmas activities, lunch after church, parenting conversations, celebrating milestones… among others) and lean into those times to equip and resource families and often give them a shared experience alongside other families who are committed to raising up their children well.

Family ministry, it seems, is more than just handing out take-home pages.
Who knew? ;)

I’m looking forward to continuing those conversations throughout this coming year… and we’d love to have your voice in the mix – what has your church done to meet families where they’re at?  Are you connecting with parents on Facebook, spending time at school events and soccer fields to meet families in your community, or something else creative?  Use the comments section to let us know!

 
3 Comments

Posted by on October 11, 2011 in Kidmin, Thoughts

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Train Up Your Children

Train up your children

Holy snap, the verse you know & love doesn’t exist

I love having friends who are brilliant.  In fact, anyone who knows the story behind my wife and I falling in love and getting married knows that it all began because I wanted to marry someone smarter than I am (and… it helped that she is smokin’ hot).

So, I was sitting down for dinner with one of our brilliant friends the other night when she dropped a bomb on my world.  It went something like this:

Laura: Hey, you know that verse about training up your child in the way he should go?

Me: Yup.

Laura: That’s not in the Bible.

Me: *confused silence*

Seriously – it was like a bomb went off in the room.  When I asked her, in a stumbled and broken sentence, what in the world she meant, she went on to explain that the verse is a bit confusing in the original language and that the KJV translators sort of guessed at what the verse said.  And… most every translation afterward has made the same guess!

The verse is more likely to be a warning about how, if you let your child choose their own path, they’ll continue on that path when they’re an adult.  This makes total sense… but I’m seriously wrestling with how many people have taken this verse as a promise (which is a bit silly because it’s a Proverb, not a Promise) and how to best point them in the right direction.

Rather than go any further, I’m going to link to a post that explains all of this better than I could.  My brilliant friend, Laura Ziesel, wrote a post on the subject here: http://www.lauraziesel.com/2011/10/train-up-child-in-whose-way.html

Not sure you want to click over?   Let me tease you with this:

I hate to be the one to break the news to everyone, but Bible translation has failed miserably in regard to Proverbs 22:6 and we have all been duped. 
Okay, now hold on. I hear you groaning already: “Oh great, she’s going to tell us what the Hebrew really says, as if the Hebrew is clear. Pulease.” I get it. I really do. If Scripture were clear, many scholars and pastors would be out of work.
So, I’m not going to pretend as if the Hebrew is clear here because it’s not. But I (via my awesome professor and a little independent verification) can tell you what Proverbs 22:6 doesn’t say. Ready?
Laura blogs over at www.lauraziesel.com – a great way to break the news to the parents in your ministry is to post a link to her article on Facebook… just a suggestion.
 
1 Comment

Posted by on October 4, 2011 in Kidmin, Thoughts

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,482 other followers

%d bloggers like this: